Top-ranked Mount Hebron brought its solid outside shooting, inside power and excellent man-to-man defense to bear on fifth-ranked Hammond last night, and the combination overwhelmed the Golden Bears, 52-34.
Hebron (4-0, 11-1) won its 11th straight game, handing Hammond (3-1, 10-1) its first defeat.
The Vikings outclassed Hammond after a tight first quarter that saw the lead change five times. Hebron led by 13-10 after the opening period. Then, despite having starting forwards Kris Bryant and Tierney Clark on the bench in foul trouble, the Vikings went on a 16-6 tear in the second period to take a 29-16 halftime lead.
The Vikings were never threatened after that. They traded baskets with Hammond in the third period, then led by as many as 22 in the fourth quarter. Hebron held the Bears -- who entered the game averaging 58 points a game -- to a season-low.
"They [Hebron] played great defense, and we missed shots we've made all year. We were cold," said Hammond coach Joe Russo, whose Bears shot 31 percent from the field (16-for-52) and made just one of 10 free throws. "I still think we can beat them, but I don't think we're ready for prime time yet."
The Vikings, the defending Class 2A champs who are aiming for their fifth state title in six years under coach Dave Greenberg, put on another prime-time performance, starting with their defense, which forced 17 turnovers.
Hammond point guard Kacy Williams (four points) and forward Sonia Keiner (nine) entered the game averaging 16 points apiece.
Even with 6-foot Bryant (11 points, four rebounds) in constant foul trouble -- she fouled out late in the game -- Hebron controlled the boards with a 37-17 rebounding advantage. Forward Sandra Benson stepped up to score nine points and grab a game-high 10 rebounds.
Guards Erica McCauley and Emily Yanero also were too much for the Bears to handle. McCauley scored a game-high 14 points and added six rebounds. She sparked Hebron in the first half with 11, including a 3-for-4 show from three-point range. Yanero was everywhere, scoring 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting, grabbing seven rebounds and adding four assists and four steals.
"It's a pretty balanced group," Greenberg said. "Kris struggled tonight, and Sandra picked it up. Our kids were a little pumped up early, and we played rattled. Then, Erica settled us down and we regained our composure."